It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the release of the first Back to the Future in 1985. The mega-hit spawned two sequels a few years later, filmed back to back and released about six months apart at the end of 1989 and the summer of 1990. All three films are now available on Blu-ray in a box set loaded with special features.
The first movie is the best of the trilogy. Even 25 years later it works on all levels. The jokes are still funny, the performances are great, and the story remains relevant. The effects might be a tad outdated, but they hold up surprisingly well. I think what works best about Back to the Future is that the heart of the movie is not about time travel, it’s about self discovery, confidence, and decisions and consequences. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is a seemingly confident teenager, who longs to be a rock and roll star (or at least play guitar and sing in a rock group). Marty’s first attempt at pursuing his dream is to audition his band to play at the high school talent show. When they are rejected Marty wilts in self doubt, ready to give up. All that doesn’t have much to do with time travel, but it does establish Marty’s character.
Marty’s friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) is a scientist who has never given up on his dreams of inventing something. He finally succeeds in inventing a time machine in a DeLorean car. Doc is about to embark on his time travelling adventures when things go awry and Marty ends up in the time machine, transported back thirty years to 1955. Unable to get back, Marty hunts down the much younger Doc Brown to help him return to 1985. Along the way he inadvertently interrupts the day his parents first met and starts a chain of events that threaten his very existence. While Doc tries to figure out a way to get the time machine to work again, Marty must try to get his mom and dad to meet and fall in love.
Witnessing his parents as teenagers gives Marty insight into his own life. His lack of confidence in himself can also be seen in his father. Marty’s father George McFly (Crispin Glover) is a classic nerd who loves sci-fi and lacks the ability to talk to girls. He’s also constantly bullied by Biff (Thomas Wilson). The adult George McFly Marty knows has given up on all his dreams, is still bullied by Biff, and has no backbone. The teenage George, however, has a few dreams of his own. George wants to be a writer, but like Marty, is afraid of rejection and quickly gives up. Marty’s mom Lorraine (Lea Thompson) is a pretty and popular teenager who, much too Marty’s surprise, smokes, drinks and flirts with boys. The boy she most likes to flirt with is Marty. It’s a bit weird that the mom would have a crush on her future son, but it works for this movie. As Marty learns about his parents he learns about himself, and he thinks about how little decisions can change your life.